Madison Bans Recreational Marijuana Businesses in Town

MADISON – The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to ban the commercial growing and sale of marijuana in town during a meeting Monday.

Under the ordinance approved Monday, the town won’t allow any recreational marijuana businesses to open, including cultivators and retailers. The ordinance still allows businesses that solely serve medical marijuana patients, and personal use and growing marijuana is still allowed in town under state law.

There was no discussion of the ordinance before the Monday vote, but in previous meetings and hearings, First Selectwoman Peggy Lyons said the ban on commercial marijuana businesses appeared to be what residents wanted, based on their feedback. 

Lyons said at an April meeting that out of 911 responses, 58 percent of people said they either “oppose” or “strongly oppose” zoning approval for marijuana businesses. She said comments included in those responses cited public safety and traffic concerns.

“There was a strong push in terms of keeping it away from children [and concerns about] public safety threats and enforcement if we were to allow sales,” Lyons said.

Selectman Scott Murphy, who serves as the board’s liaison to Madison Youth and Family Services, said at that meeting that while the ordinance isn’t necessarily about the impact of mairjuana on young people, it’s something he’s concerned about and hears about “all the time.”

“By bringing it closer to our youth, it’s more accessible,” Murphy said.

Madison joins neighboring Clinton as towns that have banned commercial marijuana businesses, with Clinton one of the first to enact a townwide ban shortly after marijuana was legalized in 2021. On the other side of town, Guilford recently extended its moratorium on marijuana businesses through the end of August.

Down the shoreline, Westbrook and Old Saybrook have each approved a marijuana retailer, drawing public opposition. 

In Westbrook, where BUDR was approved to open a retailer on Boston Post Road, residents have petitioned to ban additional marijuana businesses in the mixed-use zoning district that runs along much of the road. But the town has been more receptive to a manufacturer of marijuana gummies, which has mostly drawn questions about its outdoor lighting plan.

Lyons said the ban is not a judgment of the value of marijuana or its personal use, but whether it fits as a business and economic opportunity in Madison. She said the town is generally restrictive about the kinds of businesses it allows by zoning, and that should continue with marijuana.

“We do have a lot of liquor stores, I’ll agree to that. But there’s also a 100-year history of blue laws in the state of Connecticut and restrictions on liquor sales that have taken time to loosen up,” Lyons said. “I feel like we’re kind of just out of the gate with this legalization, and it would be prudent to put some restrictions on. And 10 to 20 years from now, it might be very different. People might demand this, and to have a local place to go.”

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